Tuesday, October 23, 2007

London update

On Saturday I made arrangements to come down to London to inspect - and almost certainly take - a room in Isleworth for our final 7-8 weeks. On Sunday morning I called at the requested time and left a message indicating when I would be arriving. A little while after that I got a phone-call from another person advertising on the same room-letting site, and I said I'd contact them as soon as I got into town.

We hit Ealing at about 1.30pm, and took up a pew and brew at Munson's cafe (surprise, surprise) and I called both houses to say I was here and ready to go. 2 hours later and I hadn't heard from either. Little gnawings in the stomach: where we going to sleep tonight?

Minutes later I got an offer from Keith (the photographer who did the story on us for the Scandinavian papers in February), saying we could stay with him and his wife, but as they were currently out of town, we'd have to find something to tide us over for 3 nights.

Just then I got a call from house #2, and I explained the situation, asking if I could just rent the room till Wednesday. Since the house was just around the corner we went around to discuss, and it was agreed that we should stay. Not many minutes later, I was cleaning up their household computer of various unwanted detritus and spyware - a 2 hour job, deleting programs and pruning the Start Menu.

Sometime later that evening I got a call from house #1, apologising for being too wasted from the previous night's football final to return any of my messages.

This morning [Monday], first job was to visit Airpets out near Heathrow to get Bondi properly measured for his crate, and collect his paperwork for the final medical tests. Then, over to my storage locker to unload some of the bags I had been driving around with since July and unload any accumulations, ... and ... to reel at the horror of the the entire contents waiting for me to sort for shipping in a month or so.

Dropped into Chiswick for lunch , and then went out to Osterley to pick up a used copy of Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", which seems to have gone out of print in the UK. After casting my eye over a shelf labelled "Elderly children's", I saw that the proprietor had an interesting selection of Beverley Nichols, and she gave me some recommendations for particular titles, notably the autobiography where he writes candidly of his several attempts to kill his alcoholic father. I suggested she try reading J.R. Ackerley's My Father and Myself, and Christopher Robbins' memoir of Brian Desmond Hurst, The Empress of Ireland.

This week I've also read David Crystal's "The Fight for English", his response to Lynn Truss' "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"; and Jay Lake's dark fantasy The Trial of Flowers. Each book excellent in its respective fashion.

Next? Let Bondi enjoy some car-less days, catch up with London friends, see a few shows, visit the museums and galleries that have eluded me so far, more family tree work, and final visits to Wales and Cornwall.


  1. Elderly children's—do tell!

  2. Nothing exotic as a set of progeriac fairy tales: just books for children that happen to be very old.

    I was actually looking for Beverley Nichols' "The Wickedest Witch in the World". I have his earlier trio of "The Tree that Sat Down", "The Stream that Stood Still" and "The Mountain of Magic". My mother put me on to the first one in my immediate post-Hobbit phase and I really liked it. It has a much more modern sensibility than you'd expect from the time, but then as a well-travelled friend of Nöel Coward, I suppose he's a bit ahead of his time.
    The witch in that book was somewhat like one I dimly recall in Alan Marshall's fairy-tale cum tall-story: "Whispering in the Wind". As I flounder around the internet looking for some background on that title, I read here that there's a Czech film based on it!
    Randolph Stowe's "Midnite" is another children's-book-by-an-established-adult-author from around the same time as Marshall's book. When I was a kid, everyone read Marshall's "I Can Jump Puddles", his autobiographical tale of growing up with polio. It's striking to realise now that those events happened a century ago, not really much later than Ethel Turner's "Seven Little Australians".

  3. Too bad! It sounds like something right out of Uncle.

    I'll have to look into those Beverley Nichols books.